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CSA Scout: Sometimes, Less is More

Two different subscribers’ boxes from Great Country Farms. (Betsy DeMarco and Sarah Hamaker)

I have two points about minimalism this week. The first: I must admit I was somewhat relieved when I got an e-mail from Karl's Farm telling me that my CSA (community-supported agriculture) delivery wouldn't be happening this week.

"We've been harvesting the plants pretty hard and they, like us, could do with a short period of R&R," the e-mail said.

I agree: As I said last week, between my own vacations and long workdays and other recipe projects and obsession with weekend farmers markets, I've been getting behind on my CSA cooking, and a few things have even gone to waste. With a week to catch up, I'll be ready next Tuesday when, according to the farmers, Karl's might even have arugula, okra and chard coming.

That's the first point. The second is this: Other CSA subscribers are reporting a beautiful thing about their boxes here in the full flush of summer bounty. When the produce is good, the cooking is easy, because they don't have to do that much to make things taste great. Isn't that glorious?

Here's what they're saying:

Betsy Bajwa, Bethesda
Whole share from Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine, Md.
$506 (22 weeks)

In the box: 1 dozen certified organic eggs (miscellaneous sizes), 1 pound medium tomatoes, 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 head garlic, good amount of a variety of small to medium green and yellow peppers, 1 large pattypan squash, about 1/2 to 3/4 pound okra, 1 pound green tomatoes, 1 quart of yellow and red cherry tomatoes.
Meals and cooking plans: Thus far we’ve had: pasta with squash, peppers and tomatoes; squash side; fried green tomatoes; cuke, tomato and pepper side salad. For the rest of the week: okra gumbo soup (a la Moosewood -- my favorite way to use up okra, no slime), fried okra (husband’s favorite -- but it’s still slimy to me!), pasta with cherry tomatoes, basil and goat cheese; burritos with peppers; sausage and potato “skillet”; and eggs of some sort with potatoes on the side for a lunch.
Last week I used up all I took on vacation, and the friend who sublet our share was happy to try it out. (It was the first time she’d had okra to cook with that she could remember.)

Betsy DeMarco, Fairfax
Two adults, three young children
Half-share from Great Country Farms, Bluemont, Va.
$475 (20 weeks)

In the box: 1.5 pounds tomatoes, 3 ears of corn, green beans, 1 bag of leaf lettuce, 7 peaches, 5 nectarines, 1 dill plant.
Meals and cooking plans: The leaf lettuce looks wonderful and will probably be used in salads. The corn looks good and will be cooked in the usual manner and served with lots of butter and salt. We had the green beans last night, and a lot of them had an odd texture. I am wondering if it is from the lack of rain. Such are the risks of the CSA. I used the tomatoes (with some basil from the farm, which is miraculously thriving on my front porch in spite of much neglect) in a lovely recipe using red wine vinegar in which smashed garlic has soaked. We nearly fought over the last helpings in the bowl! The peaches and nectarines needed some ripening on the counter and were just ready today, so we haven't tried any of them yet. I am not sure I needed that dill plant, as there is already one in a pot on the porch. I don't think I have used it much.

Sarah Hamaker, Fairfax
Two adults, four children
Half-share from Great Country Farms, Bluemont.
$475 (20 weeks)

In the box: 8 peaches, 5 nectarines, 3 ears of corn, small bag of green beans, big bag of green-leaf lettuce, 4 tomatoes, 1 fennel plant.
Meals and cooking plans: This week’s box probably will be fixed very simply, as our family loves eating steamed corn and crisply cooked green beans. These veggies are so fresh, it seems a shame to dress them up with anything but a bit of salt, pepper and butter (for the corn). The fruit will be eaten as is: With four kids, there’s no hope of saving up enough for a pie or a dessert. The lettuce looks fantastic and will adorn many a sandwich and salads. I might make a tomato quiche to jazz things up a bit, although our family loves to eat fresh tomatoes sliced with a side of mayonnaise. However, I’m not sure the fennel plant will make it past today, given that the peat container fell apart in the plastic bag. I put it with the nasturtium plant in the hopes that I will actually get around to replanting all the herbs (which are barely hanging on in this heat).
The half-head of cabbage that was hanging around last week ended up being sauteed in a bit of garlic and olive oil, which was a hit. The cucumbers are slowly being eaten in salads, which is a good thing, since I forgot to find a recipe for them last week.

Sarah Husain, Columbia
Two adults
Full share (eight items) from One Straw Farm, White Hall, Md.
$485 (24 weeks)

In the box: 6 tasty green bell peppers, one very unripe cantaloupe, 1 head of garlic, two 2-poundish bags of potatoes, the biggest beet I have ever seen (seriously, like 5 inches across), 1 bunch of very large green onions.
Meals and cooking plans: I made chicken potpie with green peppers, green onions, potatoes and corn from last week (also broccoli and squash I froze earlier in the season). I also made a great salad with some black beans, green peppers, the corn, green onions, garlic and gifted tomatoes. The beet was boiled, peeled, chunked and eaten plain. We still have two green peppers, a good deal of potatoes and the (still unripe, but will be cut this evening because it's been a week!) cantaloupe left.
Reactions from last week: I defrosted all the corn, de-kerneled it and made the corn broth from the cobs from a few weeks back (frozen). The corn is almost all gone (mostly eaten plain -- no salt or anything, it's so good). I also defrosted broccoli and squash from a month or so back to add to the potpie, but now I have to use the rest of it in addition to next week's stuff.
Other thoughts: We still have stuff left, but at least it will last awhile. We do like eating this many veggies. Even if we're racing to keep up, we aren't throwing any veggies away (sometimes leftovers do have to be chucked), so we're mostly achieving our goal of using everything we get. We know we'll miss it when it's February, so we're trying to appreciate what we've got. Last week's corn and this week's peppers made that easy.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  August 21, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  CSA Scout  | Tags: CSA, Joe Yonan  
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